A bat of bamboo

Results of a new study point to a possible tweak in the old game. The batsmen are smiling.

For centuries, the sound of a leather ball on a wooden bat has been romanticised. If a couple of Cambridge University researchers have their way, it might be time to start fussing about the sound of leather on bamboo. The results from their study on bamboo bats will please the mollycoddled batsmen: Bamboo is 22 per cent stiffer than willow and apparently increases the speed at which the ball leaves the bat. The sweet spot on their prototype performed 19 per cent better than traditional bats and was closer to the toe-end of the bat. In the words of the co-author of the study, Dr Darshil Shah, who was a member of Thailand’s under-19 national cricket team, “this is a batsman’s dream”. The investigations comprised microscopic analysis, video-capture technology, computer modelling, compression, and vibrations testing — and presumably some good-old thwacking.

This is also another step towards the de-colonisation of the English game. It can promote sustainability and drastically cut down the cost of producing a bat, further democratising the sport. Bamboo grass is far cheaper than the English willow. There is already a shortage of good-quality English willow, which, like good whiskey, takes up to 15 years to mature. The Moso bamboo matures in five to six years and is abundantly found in India, which is the second-largest cultivator after China, South-East Asia, and South America.

The law specifies “blade shall consist solely of wood”. One of the first-ever mentions of a bat was found in an inquest of death in England in 1614. Fearing he might be caught, the batsman whacked the ball again — those days, the batsmen could strike more than once — but ended up hitting fielder Jasper Vinall, who tragically died. The inquest absolved the batsman of any homicidal intent. Would the result have been less ghastly if the bat were made of bamboo? That is a question. But certainly, batsmen with a bamboo bat can cause more legal mayhem.

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